At SIX we think it is important to tell stories where social innovation has impacted people’s lives for the better. Our Stories of Change series tells you the stories that inspire us from around the world.
More than half of all people living in India earn part of their income from farming. At the same time, many of these farmers are illiterate and lack access to electricity, meaning that although information today is so easily transmitted, relevant agricultural knowledge and information is still widely unavailable for large parts of the rural population. Furthermore, widespread issues of malnutrition and food insecurity call for a wide distribution of effective and improved agricultural practices to farmers struggling with high costs and low productivity.
Parallel to this predominant issue in rural areas, urban areas are experiencing an increasing tendency to use technology to tackle social challenges. Numerous initiatives – including many in education and training – are using ‘technology for good’ but many of them have failed due to an overestimation of the intrinsic power of technological solutions. One of the most well known examples of this is the disappointing effect of the ‘One Laptop per Child’ programme, which didn’t deliver the impact many predicted. And teachers – with the motivation, intimacy, and explanations they bring to their students – have still turned out to be an essential part of all educational processes – also when technology is part of the educational toolbox.
According to computer-scientist Kentaro Toyama, who recently published the book “Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology”, experiences like these have clarified that the potential of technological solutions is fundamentally dependent on human understanding and action.
Technology in itself is no silver bullet, but by using technology wisely it can facilitate the spread of knowledge and information quicker and more effectively than what was previously possible. Digital Green, “a not-for-profit organization that uses an innovative digital platform for community engagement to improve lives of rural communities across South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa”, is a great example of this.
In a multipurpose effort to both tackle the issue of agricultural education and malnutrition, Digital Green is using an online knowledge platform – with videos containing locally-relevant agricultural skills – to scale agricultural training of farmers across 9 states in India and parts of Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Ghana, Niger and Tanzania. Trained by Digital Green, local community members are in charge of producing and sharing these videos with their neighbors, ensuring that people understand and experience the benefits of specific practices. Further, long-term sustainability is created by enabling everyone to access videos online, or seek (offline) advice with their local community experts in the time after adopting their new farming techniques.
The process is widely appreciated. As Beena Devi, a community member from the Ghusaut village, explains: “With the videos, everyone understands the processes, even those who are illiterate. Our yield has increased, as have our profits. Now we have money we can use for our children’s education and other work.” According to Digital Green, almost 4,000 videos have now reached more than 600,000 individuals across 7,645 villages. Videos have been produced by 522 community members (trained by Digital Green), and screened in an interactive format by 6,403 trained community members. More than half of the people watching the videos have now adopted one or more of the agricultural practices introduced in the videos.
Learn more about Digital Green here.